Open Letter to Canterbury School
Open Letter to Canterbury School
Why this petition matters
A Note About This Letter:
This time is riddled with endless cycles of pain, grief, anger, hope, confusion and so much more. It is difficult to know how to be helpful and offer tangible support. This is one step.
This is an open letter to Canterbury School, calling on the school to do more to encourage conversations and education about privilege and race. Our prep school education provided us with so much, but could potentially do so much more.
We encourage you to share this petition widely throughout the Canterbury community including current students, alumni, teachers, staff and parents. Our goal is that this document reflects the perspective of the Canterbury community and sparks conversation toward change.
Please consider signing your name to show our unified support of bettering the Canterbury education through deliberate conversations on race and privilege.
Dear Mr. Jackson:
We, as members of the Canterbury community, would like to start by welcoming you and your family to the school. As you will soon learn, if you haven't already, Canterbury creates strong connections among its students, faculty, staff, and families that last long after graduation. It is because of these strong connections to the school and genuine interest in its betterment that we write to respectfully insist that Canterbury School craft a school-wide, comprehensive plan addressing issues of systemic racism and release that plan to the Canterbury community for comment and discussion.
As you addressed in your June 3, 2020 note to the Canterbury community, recent events, including George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, have left the American people heartbroken and angry about the senseless loss of another Black life.
Conversations and education about systemic racism (i.e., the racist policies and biases that shape this country) are taking place nation-wide. It is here that schools have a key role, both in creating forums for these conversations and in equipping students with the skills and empathy to productively and compassionately contribute to these conversations, and to critically consider how they may effect positive change in our society.
Although racism and oppression are unfortunately nothing new, the American people have become increasingly aware of the unnecessary deaths of too many people of color at the hands of police, and of the subtle and overt ways that racism has penetrated our economic, legal, and social systems. Americans are realizing that we are long overdue for a serious reckoning with the state of racism as it exists institutionally and, most importantly, within ourselves.There is no excuse for Canterbury to refrain from participating in that reckoning.
You have the power to broaden your students’ understanding of the world and of their role in it. Canterbury has a responsibility to examine the roles that privilege and bias play within its walls. Just as Canterbury imbues its students with consistent messaging on the importance of integrity, service, and academics starting before kindergarten, Canterbury must also impress upon its students the immense privilege they have, and that with that privilege comes a responsibility to stand in solidarity with our non-white brothers and sisters. You take pride in creating the next generation of leaders, and those leaders must understand how far we are from, and how we must fight for, racial equity.
We encourage Canterbury School to create a comprehensive plan for addressing these issues at the Lower, Middle and High School levels and release the plan to the Canterbury community -- including faculty, staff, alumni, and parents -- so that everyone can be a part of the progress forward and hold Canterbury, and each other, accountable. This plan should:
(1) Provide an updated diversity curriculum that:
- Ensures that these lessons are mandatory, and that they take place across grade levels with concepts that are age-appropriate, yet challenge students’ thinking.
- Ensures the changes are more than a superficial box to check. The curriculum should grapple with modern issues and encourage students to understand their own participation in racist systems.
- Includes diverse and modern perspectives and elevates voices of the black community by selecting materials that reflect their experiences and by inviting guest speakers.
(2) Provide continued learning opportunities and trainings for Canterbury educators and staff. The school must undertake this initiative with a self-critical eye, fostering conversations about how Canterbury itself, and elite institutions like it, perpetuate racist policies -- even if it does not intend to do so. Providing these opportunities and trainings will enable faculty to be instrumental in critically evaluating Canterbury’s systems and in leading students through their own self-discovery.
(3) Create a Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board composed of faculty, staff, parents, alumni and other stakeholders. In addition to helping create the enhanced diversity curriculum, we recommend that the Advisory Board consider opportunities for enhancing diversity in the institution's student body and leadership. Building a diverse and inclusive community fosters understanding and empathy that is above and beyond what students can learn in a textbook.
We cherish our Canterbury education and the values we learned and examined as students. In fact, it is because of our fondness for our alma mater that we urge you to improve upon the already rigorous education you provide to students by educating them about systemic racism and privilege, and about their roles in both. We know that anti-racist work doesn’t happen alone, and creating communities committed to racial equity cannot, and should not, rest squarely on one individual or one Head of School. These are community efforts and, in signing this letter, we commit to being part of this community.